Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Rules

My APW group has been getting together monthly-or-more to discuss writing and marriage and a bunch of other stuff.  So we were sitting around at the bar last Wednesday and I mentioned that Mark and I have a rule where we get out of bed at the same time in the morning.  Then I mentioned that we had attempted to develop a rule where one of us did not use more than 5 utensils when she made dinner because the other of us was sick of cleaning an excessive number of dishes.

At which point, Jessica looks at me and says, "you guys have a lot of rules."  I got, naturally, immediately defensive, but then she said, "it's funny."  In a non-judgmental way.  Because she's a member of Team Practical.

So I thought about it, and we do have a lot of rules.  For starters, we have a bedtime, and as a general rule (with a few exceptions, and several arguments) we go to bed at the same time.  Then there is the aforementioned getting-up-at-the-same-time rule.  Most of our friends don't have that rule - and they find it weird.  I could leave for work an hour later than my husband, giving me an hour (or more) more sleep in the morning, if I wanted it.  But at different points in our relationships, both of us have been the one running out the door to earn money while the other person hit the snooze button or grumbled at them for waking them up. It makes both of us resentful, and so, we get up at the same time.

We have the standard, "you cook, I'll do the dishes" rule.  This rule seemed very fair to me until my husband pointed out that I was constantly cooking to get out of doing the dishes and that wasn't fair.  So I had to start backing off, or doing some more dishes.  I've done a little of both.

We have some rules that don't take, or that we would like to impose as individuals.  Mark has attempted to make rules about not leaving my shoes everywhere, but as I sit here typing, there are four pairs in a four foot radius of me, and I'm at the dining room table.  I tried to make a rule about not snacking on anything but salad before dinner.  That lasted about as long as the first bag of salad I bought.  It's not surprising that a rule won't stick unless we both believe in it.

I think that rules are good for relationships, as long as you don't have too many of them.  They are a good way to state your values and make sure that you are both getting what you need from your spouse.  I have a friend whose partner likes to work late in the evenings and sleep late in the morning - the consequence being that they don't spend much time together, which can make a person feel undervalued, like they aren't as important as your sleep.  I have another friend who has a rule with her husband about what financial spending they can and can't get angry about - he doesn't get angry about how much clothing she buys, she doesn't get angry about how often he goes out for lunch.  I firmly believe that it's this kind of agreed-upon give-and-take of creating rules that helps couples get what they need from each other.  

I think that rules can also be tricky, because at the end of the day, you have to remember that you are married to your spouse, not to the rule, and fights can get ugly when you are yelling, "it's your turn!" or "that's the deal!" or "but the rule is X!"

I'm very curious as to what other people's rules might be, and also how you work your bedtime/getting out of bed issues in your relationship.


  1. First, I'm totally jealous that your APW group meets once a month.

    Second, we also have the getting up rule! Though it's sort of flexible... on work days, we both have to be up by 7, even though one of us usually gets up a little bit earlier than that to shower. But it's for the same reason you pointed out: that if we didn't have that rule, one of us would get resentful. Does the rule still apply on the weekends? For us, it's totally out the window on the weekends.

    Other rules are generally animal related: whoever does the dog's last walk, the other person does the litter boxes. Whoever is up first feeds the cats. Ask before answering a cell phone when it's just the two of us. Always ask "How are you?" if it's not an emergency when calling. Always kiss hello, goodbye, goodnight, and good morning; missing kisses is UNACCEPTABLE. Even when angry.

  2. Ditto on the APW group jealousy. I think I'll suggest that to ours. We usually get up and go to bed at the same time, but there are times where we let it go and I get more sleep if I need.

    I'm not really sure what our rules are, mostly because I don't think about them from a distance. I know we have a lot because that's the people we are. :)

  3. I've been trying to line up our bedtimes and wake ups a little and it's been an endless cycle of fail for me. We have completely different work schedules, and since my husband only has to get up early 3 days a week, he stays up late every night and sleeps in as late as he can, whenever he can. It's affecting our relationship much more negatively than the concept of having a "rule" would, but he just won't do it, no matter how many times I bring it up. GAH!

  4. Love the idea of a more frequent APW meet-up!

    B and I are both sort of rebellious when it comes to rules; we might be perfectly fine with the *idea* on our own, but the minute it becomes a rule, we look for loopholes. I'm guessing that's why we never made up many (any?) "spoken" rules... though we have some habits/patterns that've persisted even through changing schedules/jobs/school/unemployment.

    Unspoken ones:
    -Change the roll of toilet paper immediately if you use the last sheet (ditto for soap, toothpaste, etc.)

    -Plate-clearing is a competitive sport. Whoever manages to clear BOTH plates from the table wins points... dirty tricks to distract are a must. ;)

    -If either of us starts unloading the dishwasher, the other jumps in to help.

    -No complaining about how messy the cook made the kitchen, unless you helped make the meal, too

    -No need to make the bed unless company's coming

    -We do our own laundry

    I do feel guilty when he gets up at 6am every morning while I stay in bed, but not so guilty that I do anything about it. :/ Of course, he used to sleep in until 9:30am, while I'd be getting up at 5am to do homework, when I was in grad school. So we've sort of agreed that we'll keep to our own morning schedule, except on weekends. However, we have always gone to sleep at the same time, barring a few crazy nights when I had projects due or went out dancing with girlfriends. We both get in bed at 11pm every night now (used to be 1am), though we'll usually read for a bit. Luckily, neither of us minds falling asleep w/the other's bedside lamp on.

    The other weird pattern we've gotten into is that he drives when we go somewhere together. Unless it's a vacation, in which case we split the distance evenly. I don't know WHY we do this (except that neither of us cares enough to change it?). My parents did this, too, but not B's (they did the reverse). Anyone else do this??

  5. wow i never thought of this. I don't know of any 'rules' we have. we generally go to bed at the same time, but he has to get up for work at 5:30 am and no way am i getting up that early just so we can wake up at the same time. haha.
    i honestly can't think of any rules we have! I'm sure there are unspoken rules...

  6. Since the Beagle is self employed and a night person, his normal schedule is to go to bed at 2 or 3 a.m. (sometimes later) and wake up at 11 a.m. It drives me nuts because a. I'm jealous, and b. I don't get snuggle time. So we've created a rule that he has to come to bed when I go to bed Friday-Sunday nights. During Monday-Thursday he can seep according to his own preference. This has helped cut down my resentfulness.

    @Margaret The Beagle almost always drives, which is weird because I actually really like driving. But we take his car the majority of the time because it gets waaaaaay better mpgs (he has a hybrid vs. my gas-guzzler grandma boat). Driving his car makes me nervous because I know he is judging me based on my fuel efficiency, so I just let him drive all the time. Gah.

  7. We tried the going to bed and getting up at the same time rule, and THAT actually generated a lot of resentment for us. It was hard for me to let go of because he works very different hours than I do (with my long commute I was up early and out the door sometimes before he even got out of bed; his hours are concentrated in the afternoon) and I felt like we weren't spending any time together and he wasn't using his morning time productively for our family. Since I started a new job and commute time is no longer a factor, I've just allowed myself to go to bed when I'm tired instead of trying to force him to bed when he's not (and staying up later as a result), which usually leads to us up at pretty close to the same time. (Maybe since he has more alone time at night after I go to sleep now, he doesn't stay up as late very often?) I guess I need more sleep than he does. And now I'm a lot less cranky with him while we're awake together, so that's nice.

    We used to have a lot of rules, but they've sort of decreased over time and we're still coming up with new ones now that our lifestyles have changed so much over the past year or so. The most important ones are that we both have to do our best to be flexible and empathic as much as possible. That's probably contributed to the reduction of the chore- and schedule-based ones for us. We are still figuring out what works, five-plus years in!